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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

At it again

This weekend marked a rainy fifth parade, marching alongside family and friends for marriage equality.  We were on the very edge of Maine once again for the International Festival, a celebration between St. Stephen, Canada and Calais, Maine.  This parade was super cool because we actually got to cross the country border on foot.

Here is a map of Maine to show you some of where we've been.  We live just outside of Bangor, sort of in the middle lower part of the map, just inland from the ocean.  Washington County, the area that Aunt Suzie is targeting occupies the lower right hand corner of the map, the lower portion of which is water and the Eastern portion that abuts Canada.  As you can see there are very few black dots in that area as it is not exactly a metropolis.  Beals Island, where the Carvers live, is down the peninsula from Machias (where we did the fourth of July parade) and you can also see Eastport and Calais in the far Eastern (right) corner of the map. 

Saturday called for rain and luckily we got more heavy mist, living-in-a-cloud feeling than any true downpours.  I marvel at the downeasters ability to take it all in stride and not fret over a little water falling from the sky. 

After four parades, the cabinets holding the TVs (and withstanding miles of transport) were breaking down.  This, coupled with the fact that it was hard to really view the video due to glare, meant a new plan was needed.  Sandi's mom, Patti, had 24 pictures enlarged and attached them to plywood which was then mounted where the TVs had been.  They were covered in plastic to be protected from the rain and overall the effect was terrific.

Some parade virgins whose presence warmed my heart:

Ange and the kids (Matt stayed home with baby Beckett but was with us in spirit)

Sandi's sweetheart of a cousin Robbi Lee and her darling boyfriend Chris (They both just graduated from high school and if they are the future of our world then I can breath easy for our kids.)
Our neighbors Lisa, Marsha and Chris made the trip from Hampden!
My mom drove the hour to our house Friday night, rose early and rode the two hours with us to Calais, marched in the parade, had a meal with the group, rode the two hours back to our house and then got in her car and drove the hour back to hers.  Did I mention she is 73?  She is also a hard-core democrat and when I first told her I was a lesbian her reaction was (no joke): "Well, okay.  But just don't call me up and tell me you're a republican."

My mom got to carry the banner along with Myra who I have just met and simply adore.  When she heard about what Aunt Suzie was organizing back in the early summer and watched the video, she was moved to participate.  These stories never fail to amaze me.

Rhiannon (and family) who told me she had been touched by having her childhood best friend be gay and suffering through the suicide of a gay teen when she was young.  She has marched in many of these parades now and says she does so because it is what is right for everyone.  She is awesome.

Hannah, Uncle Buck's niece and her partner Sophie. Our girls took quite a shine to these two.

Having my mom there also meant that our girls had all their grandparents march with them.  How cool is that?  There is such an outpouring of people supporting our family.

Dwight, Maya and her many faces, Makenna and Patti
You would never know these three are sisters would you?

We decorated the float and then headed over the border for parade line-up in Canada.  There was some passport waving and me repeatedly telling the kids "how exciting!" it was to be crossing the border of a country. They chomped on their granola bars and looked at me dubiously, likely thinking: "This is our fifth parade.  Big friggin' deal."

But really, the parade experience never ceases to thrill them.  It is like the best dance recital ever where everyone is watching you but you don't have to worry about messing up the steps because all you do is pass out candy, laugh, and hold hands while being decked out in rainbow paraphernalia in front of a lukewarm audience.  Okay, it is nothing like a dance recital, never mind.

When we started out in Canada, the Canadians were very subdued.  I guess this is sort of their general demeanor.  Not realizing this, I kind of assumed they were looking at us with all our hubbub thinking, "yeah, we already have marriage equality Americans are SO behind."  But many of our marchers had stories to tell later of people they had made eye contact with and who had spontaneously cheered or cried.

When we crossed over into Maine, the wet street was packed with people.  We definitely got some cheers and enthusiasm, but there was the usual stoic expressions as well.  We got the people who would turn their backs and not look at us and those that gave a thumbs down.  One woman gave me a hearty two thumbs down and a vigorous head shake.  I told her our families needed her help.  She said, "No way."

My mom was disappointed by the lack of warmth and support from the crowd.  But honestly, what can you expect when you're working to change the minds and hearts of people who have always thought that what you are, who you are, is wrong?  Did people role out the red carpet when the first African Americans bravely made their way through the crowd to walk into the "white" school after desegregation?
Luckily for us, our group is like a safe cocoon of love and solidarity and in a way we are insulated from the crowd.  We laugh and sing and this time one of our marchers even started a call and response chant. "What do we want?"  "MARRIAGE EQUALITY!" "When do we want it?" "NOW!"  Then Noah took it on and there was no shutting him down.  An eight-year-old yelling for civil rights among the streets of a small town in conservative Maine is a sight to behold.

Me and San and our trusty marching partner, Noah.

My friend Chris (pictured several above) had quite an emotional and profound experience while marching herself.  I had seen the emotion all over her face during the parade and had pondered the thought on the way home that the purpose of our marching might be as much of a benefit to those watching as those marching. For those who haven't exactly been welcomed as gay with open arms into their families or society, it might be very meaningful to march in such a proud and joyous way and this acceptance in and of itself may go miles toward promoting equality from the inside out.

Then the next day, Chris wrote Sandi, Aunt Suzie and I this incredible message about her experience. Here is an excerpt that describes this very notion and the precise reason that marching matters:

"Then, at one point in the parade we slowed and stopped for a moment in front of a large group of people. Within this group was a smaller group of people who were obviously together. There was a woman who was within that group of non-smiling, unhappy looking people. As I waved and made eye contact with the people she was with (who never changed their expressions, and then looked away from us), and then to her, her eyes instantly became red and watery, and a single tear rolled down her cheek, which she quickly wiped away. And instead of waving, with her arm remaining motionless and at her side, she flexed her wrist towards us, and in a guarded way, moved her fingers in a waving motion, unnoticed by those she was with. This is the point that I became aware that not only were we marching for those of us who were 'out' and living open, honest and loving lives, but we were marching for those of us who were still unable to have their own voices.

I looked at Sandi, Suzanne, & the girls, and I looked at all those family members surrounding them, there for them, supportive and loving of who they are, and I wondered what that would be like. How lucky you all are as a family to have the love that you do. That family means love and unconditional support in every way imaginable. Family means exposing yourself, educating others in what is right and wrong, and why equality is important, no matter what the response from others may be. That Family means putting in timeless hours and traveling around the State to share a message of love, strength, support and equality. That Family means building a "Pride Mobile", spending countless amounts of your own money, and spending weekends building, rebuilding, and marching for the ones you love. That Family means coming together and showing that you will be there no matter what. And that Family means that no matter what happens in November, the relationships, unconditional support and love will always be there. Personally, I can not imagine what it would be like for my very large and non-supportive family to show me and my friends this type of honest and connected love and support, and I would even settle for a small percentage of this love I saw yesterday."

Amen Chris.  Amen. 

One more parade on September 8th at the Eastport Pirate Festival.  Eeeyyy, whose in Matey?  Or do I need to put on my eye patch and make you walk the plank?


Katie Duffy said...

That's fantastic! Chris's story made me cry. I live in NY now, and we have marriage equality here, but most of my extended family is in Maine, and my Dad (who was closeted for 20 years of hetero marriage and finally came out when I was 18 years old!) grew up there. I love what you guys are doing! Actually, we're going to be in Maine on vacation in about 2 weeks, and visiting my grandmother in Brewer too... are there any events happening during the last week of August / Labor Day weekend? Maybe my family could come out and offer some support! Marriage equality hasn't killed New Yorkers and it won't kill Maine either :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, though it always makes me really sad to hear about people like the woman who saw such a wonderful, love-filled parade as something bad. I hope you know that many of us in Orono will be voting in favor of marriage equality this November :)

Carol Snowdeal said...

Great post. I am very proud you all are taking a stand in downeast Maine. It just amazes me! It is tough to break through intrenched generational prejudism. The only way to break it is with LOVE and a clear message "we are not going away until equal is equal for everyone." THANK YOU to the Carver Clan and everyone else that does whatever they can. It has already made a difference!!!!

love is written here said...

Katie! Send me an email and we can chat about what's coming up!

That is incredible about your dad. This must make you stand for these rights from a rather unique perspective.

And thanks to all of you for all the support! It means so much to me!

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